Have you ever heard the expression, “Take a deep breath and relax?”  Of course you have.  But this advice could be doing you more harm then good.

You may have noticed that when you are feeling stressed or tense that it is difficult to inhale deeply, maybe even painful. In fact one of the tell-tale signs of stress is shallow breathing and an inability to take a long slow deep breath.

Instead try focusing on the exhale when feeling tense or stressed. You’ll notice almost immediately a loosening of the chest, back, and abdominal muscles.

Here’s how it works:

1. It’s good to lie down for this practice. (However if you are somewhere where you can’t lie down, then sitting upright is okay, but it may make this practice more challenging).

2. Place your hands on your belly, close your eyes, and relax your face.

3.  Now, exhale slowly, deeply, and completely either through the nose or mouth.  If it helps imagine that there is a heavy weight on your belly pressing it towards your spine

4. Next inhale, but not forcefully!  Just let the belly and chest float up.

5.  Exhale again, in the same manner and again let the inhale be natural.

After about 3 deep exhalations you’ll notice that there is more room in the body for the breath.

Do this 5 to 10 times then relax.  Just breathe, just be.

Photo Credit: Aaron Burden